One night, three dragons and twenty ways to improve our investment readiness.

Recently, Team NoshPlanet (well, one of us who happened to be in the country at the time) had a terrific opportunity to spend some time over a few weeks with the nice people at The Difference Incubator, mixing up and pulling apart and ultimately re-shaping how we explain the way NoshPlanet will make the difference we are shooting for – helping sustainable restaurants and cafes become more profitable by helping hungry people find them, trust them and eat at them.  I thoroughly recommend TDi’s process to any social enterprise who’s looking to sharpen their focus and come up with ways to describe yourself way better than you did yesterday. It was also a great opportunity to meet and spend time with other social enterprises, many of which are already doing great things in the ‘make a difference’ space.

Of course, in order to make a difference, there’s this other mysterious stuff you need to make to give you the capability to bring about the change you want, and that stuff is money. So, unless you happen to have a bunch of cash sitting down the back of the couch that you’d forgotten about (I just checked ours: 70cents and a pencil), most social enterprises need to go and find some from other people who have much deeper couches.  To help this along, part of the TDi experience was to have the opportunity to pitch to a panel of “dragons” – in this case, people who are real investors by day, and who volunteer their time and expertise to help social enterprises hone their pitch to make it better next time, when you might be wooing a dragon of your choosing. And as all our friends, colleagues and partners know, we’re on the lookout for a dragon or two with deep couches, so off we went to meet some.

I’m not going to bore you with a blow by blow of the night, but suffice to say it was great fun and an amazing chance to practice our pitch, along with @NickMackay and @HAndUpAu who I would encourage anyone interested in other world-changing stuff to take a look at too.

Here are the three of us on the night (piccy from Bessi Graham @ TDi):

Pitching

That’s me on the left, with Nick Mackay and Lisa Zheng. We’re all laughing nervously at questions from the audience.

What I do want to share is my reflection of the evening that I recorded when I sat down on the train home. I wrote down what I had learned and what wisdom I had received.  My list ended up looking something like this:

20 Things I Learned Tonight:

1. Don’t underestimate how much it will cost to get the show off the ground. Apparently this is a common phenomenon. We all like to think we can run amazing enterprises on nothing more than a case of noodles and a 5 year-old iMac, which of course is just silly.  Be realistic with your costs, not romantic. Romance rarely makes money, unless you’re Mills and Boon or some sort of teen vampire fiction factory, which we’re not.

2. Know your cost of acquiring customers and how this scales down over time as the business scales up. This is typically one of the big underestimates, and for social enterprises that require customers (what enterprise doesn’t?), knowing what it costs to get them needs to inform what you need to get from them!  Simple math, but essential math.

3. Model your financials to include all your expected funding rounds. Know exactly when this money (i.e., the money you are pitching for now) will run out, what happens the day after that and what that means if you haven’t then secured the next round.

4. Project your best- and worst-case scenarios for shares – dilution, value etc, including the effects of future rounds. Early stage investors are particularly eager to see where they sit in the scheme of things and will be understandably cautious about being first if it also means being the investor that gets the hell diluted out of them in subsequent rounds.

5. NoshPlanet is a really great idea that we should definitely pursue! (Seriously, that was feedback, so it made it to the list. I mean, who wouldn’t include that?)

6. Just because people don’t like paying money for apps, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider charging for it. If you charge for your product, show how you arrived at the price. If you don’t, explain why. If your business model is two-facing, or freemium (ours is both: our customers are the listed eateries and our app users create our value to those eateries), show the dependencies between the various pieces – these dependencies can make or break the model.

7. Be clear on who is paying to achieve the ‘social’ part of your enterprise. In NoshPlanet’s case, part of our social benefit will be that Noshers (the people using the app to find sustainable and ethical restaurants and cafes) can vote on community food projects, and donate their loyalty points to those projects. Those donated points will be ‘converted’ into real dollars that will flow to the projects. Those real dollars will need to come from the business, so we need a points:$$ ratio and show where that will be funded from in our cash flow. For a social enterprise, you need to show the potential investor that part of their money will be used for this, and you need to convince them that it is providing value and benefit.

8. Numbers can always be bigger. We have around 1000 restaurants and cafes listed on the NoshPlanet app at present, and every one of those meets the criteria of one or more of our Trust Partners, including Rainforest Alliance, Seafood Watch, Fair Trade USA and Green Seal. (We also recognise USDA Organic certification but have no relationship with that agency.) But even though those 1000 eateries are hand-picked and scrutinized, which makes them a very high-value niche list, 1000 is still a number than can be doubled, or tripled, or increased by a factor of 10 or 50. The bigger the number, the more impressive (and attractive) it will be. It will also increase your pre-money valuation (see point 12).

9. It pays to ask for connections and referrals.

10. It pays to ask again the day after. (OK, you got me, I added this one the day after).

11. Know everything, and if you don’t, be ready to explain why you don’t. (Simple, huh? Just “know everything”. That should take, oh, about 15 minutes later on today, right?)

12. Have a valuation ready. Yes, it’s art and science and black magic all mixed in, but going through a process will at least show that you’ve given it some thought.

13. Use comparisons to help your valuation. For example, “right now we’re worth x% of Urbanspoon’s value because of [a, b and c] that we have in common, and then there’s [d, e and f] that’s unique about us that will give us a higher valuation when we complete milestone [G]. Or if you compare us to Yelp, we sit at about n% of their value because of [l, m, n, o and p]” .

14. Whatever your secret sauce is, that’s the part of your social enterprise that you should be spending a great deal of time, energy and money making stronger. Especially for social enterprises, the sauce is often in the relationships that make the business model turn. For us, it’s our Trust Partners – they give NoshPlanet’s listings the independent authority that set us apart from any other food-finding app. We need to look after them better. (Note to Trust Partners: expect more mail from us, we really do love you!)

15. Show that you’ve explored a range of business structures that meet the needs of the business first, and investors second. Why are you a Pty Ltd or an LLC? What will becoming a B-corp really help you with? Is there a good reason not to consider an L3C structure? Is C-corp the only answer?

16. If you’re pitching in the Valley, take a lawyer with you, especially if your idea is a really good one. (We’ll take that as an endorsement of point #5…)

17. Don’t confuse talent with investors. That’s not to say investors aren’t talented, but if you have a need for additional technology or community-building or some other specialist skill, you’re very unlikely to convince a skill-based company to buy into your company for a piece of action. They’re not in the business of investing, they’re in the business of selling their skills. Pushing this uphill can eat up a lot of your time. Instead, find investors who understand the value of those skills, and match your investment ask (or part of it) to the cost of buying in those skills.

18. Explain your returns model and timing for your potential investors – will they get dividends? Or increased value that can only be realized on an exit event? Or both?

19. Look to your big scary competitors as potential investors. For example, Open Table invested in Food Spotting and then bought it. They’ve recently acquired Rezbook from Urbanspoon and Open Table is now the booking provider for Urbanspoon. Competitors don’t and shouldn’t necessarily hide from each other. Related companies can often be interested in funding development of something that they might eventually buy.

20. Segment your customer segments. Be as granular as you can possibly be. Don’t just profile and quantify the big amorphous mass; profile and quantify as many components of that as you can – including by location or micro-niche or the colour of their shop-front if you can.

All of a sudden, my to-do list became a little fatter, but I know that the exercise it needed was going to make us much, much stronger and ready to woo some serious dragons out there in the near future. And as this all happened a couple of weeks ago, we have already addressed many of these points and are almost ready to go out again into the big wide world…

Is that all?  No. Before I hear “What? there’s a huge bunch of stuff missing from this list!” – of course I’m not suggesting that these are the only things that an aspiring pitcher needs to consider; that would be incredibly naive and stupid of me at the same time. No, these are just some of the things that we are working on to improve ours, or to make sure we have these essentials sitting in our back pockets when we go talk to people we’d like to join us on our journey. Everyone’s approach is different, but if there’s anything here than can help you too, well, that’s what this post is for.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on these, but while you’re pondering, did we mention that you can download the NoshPlanet app for free, here? Do that and you can eat like the world depends on it! And if anyone reading this is reaching down the back of the couch, we’d be more than happy to help you get whatsoever is down there out and into a more useful place.

Cheers!
- Patrick.

Acknowledgements:  Big thanks to all who have helped us along this part of our journey: Paul Steele from DonkeyWheel Foundation, Bessi GrahamIsaac Jeffries from TDi; to PwC for their generous provision of a scholarship to help get us to TDi; and to the two Dragons who gave (and continue to give) so generously of their time and experience: Lee Brennan of Ethical Investment Services; and Will Richardson of Impact Investment Group, part of the Small Giants family of companies.  Everyone mentioned here has no formal association with NoshPlanet. This is a true story and a personal reflection, nothing more, so don’t rely on it for anything except light entertainment.

 

Posted in NoshPlanet, Social Enterprise | Leave a comment

Pondering the potential of pears as a community glue…

It’s still a perfect late summer down here in Geelong and yesterday I was reminded of one of the great things about this time of year. Having spent the past 2 weeks packing, moving and unpacking home and office and settling into our new digs, it was nice to relax a little. I decided to enjoy the garden that we have assumed responsibility for on this gorgeous day.

The neighbourhood we have moved into is still an “old” neighbourhood, established from the late 1800s onward. People here grow heirloom tomatoes in their front yard and nobody pinches them. Through the maze of old laneways that still give access to backyards via rusty corrugated iron gates, there are original Hill’s hoists visible over the back fences. It’s a good neighbourhood. If it was being developed from scratch today, suburban house-and-land packagers would sweat themselves into a frenzy making sure that every square inch of every square yard was artificial-turfed, tuscan-pebbled or outdoor-kitchened, but when this neighbourhood was first built, probably the biggest design decision was where to position the outdoor dunny.  The backyard we have inherited retains some of this tumbledown wasteland look (which by the way is now my official 2013 style trend prediction) and it gives me tiny tingles of boyhood excitement to walk out into something that is completely un-manicured and, because of that, a little unpredictable.

My first exciting find was a beautiful little marbled gecko sleeping between a couple of bricks. A lovely piece of continuity, as the first of these I ever saw was from our previous backyard; apparently they are quite common but rarely seen. They are especially rarely seen in the new Duloc-like housing developments a few miles away: I guess the AstroTurf just doesn’t have the same habitat qualities as a messy layer of loose bark and a few old bricks.

Marbled Gecko

First Marbled gecko at our new place. Apparently these thrive better with real plants than with synthetic grass. Who knew?

But the thing that really made my day was a small, old tree that had been doing its thing quietly for scores of years, and it just so happened that my timing was perfect. I reckon there are about 2 tonnes of big golden pears growing in my backyard.

So, taking a leaf from the dozen or so rainbow lorikeets that were busily squawking their way through the morning, I spent ten minutes or so in the pear tree. I don’t think anyone had occupied the house for a while, or if they had they had not ventured out into the backyard very often, as the lorikeets were clearly affronted that I had the nerve to climb into their tree and assert some entitlement to the fruit they had been noisily destroying. But there was plenty to go around. In less than 10 minutes I had picked two large boxes of these bulging, crisp pears (I think they are Bartletts?), which will be more than enough to do some creative things with in the short term, add to kids’ lunch boxes, and give me an excuse to get the dehydrator and/or the Fowler’s preserving kit fired up after the fresh novelty wears off.

Our gorgeous pears

… from an old, old tree.

Back to the tree: from my modest vantage point 10 feet in the air, I was able to furtively check out several of our near neighbours’ backyards. (Some might say creepy, I say reconnaissance.) I was delighted to see that our tree was by no means alone and that there were many food trees surrounding us. Pears, olives, apricots, lemons, oranges, figs, almonds and possibly a walnut – a crunchy fruit salad of old, productive trees, planted many years ago and faithfully turning sunlight into deliciousness, year after year. All this produce made me realise how lucky we are to live in this neighbourhood, where we have instant food variety and volume on hand. (I wonder if the neighbours swap their fruit? I was tickled to read about the Barwon Heads stone fruit swap   – I will have to take some nectarines down and see if I can exchange some for a plum or three.) I was also reminded of a very cool food tree mapping project that is happening in our northern suburbs, as a first step towards sharing the bounty and decreasing food security risks. And, by contrast, I had a sinking feeling when I realised that in places where new home-buyers are being encouraged to buy so-called sustainable homes, with great (well, 6 star) energy ratings but no eaves or any consideration of where the sun is (sorry, pet peeve) that their backyards are most likely being planned to resemble groovy cafe seating areas, not pockets of productivity. Synthetic grass [shudders] might look bright and green and be low maintenance and water-saving, but no amount of hardwood decking or stainless steel outdoor kitchen space covered with long-lasting residual surface spray insecticides will grow a singe nutmeg, not to mention a golden pear. [If anyone has any documented evidence of people dying from crawling insects in Victoria in the last 5o years please send it on - I'm dying to know what the problem is.]

And I’m firmly convinced that the constant trucking and shipping of fruit from half a world away – which is one of the results of this lack of backyard self-sufficiency, even if only in a small way – is directly correlated with the weakening of community. It is the difference between sharing and swapping over the fence, and ignoring each other as we hustle our way to the supermarket’s fresh assortment of pineapples (out of season), bananas (out of season) and jack fruit (I can guarantee there is no jack fruit grown within 2000 miles of here!) How different our neighbourhoods might be if we used our roomy backyards to tap into the soil, not cover it over. And share a little.

Job #1 for tomorrow: put a box of pears out on the footpath and share the love. At least until I get rebuked by the city planners for messing with the feel of the neighbourhood. Anyone walking past, please help yourself. And say hi while you’re there. :)

Posted in Heirlooms, Local, NoshPlanet, Organic | Leave a comment

Giving thanks for my deformed chook.

We had one of those ‘wow’ days a couple of weeks back. One where something happens that reminds you that you really can’t predict the way things will go, and that no matter how much you mess things up, the universe will sometimes decide to make it right anyway.

In this instance, the event that rocked our world was that our chook laid its first eggs.  No big deal for many backyard chicken keepers, I know, but before you judge, there are a few things you should know about this particular chook. Actually, one major thing, really.  After spending its early days in the company of the other pullet we had picked up from a local free-range breeder, our gorgeous little Light Sussex found itself quite alone after it became patently clear that chicken #2 was actually young rooster #1. For the sake of neighbourly relations, rooster #1 quickly became roast #8. Such is life. We resigned ourselves to being a one-chook family for a while, fully intending to replace said rooster with another ‘real’ layer.

This was not to be. The next week, our over-exuberant Border Collie decided to implement his best herding instincts, and cajoled the pullet into the corner of the yard, which just so happened to have a small, wing-sized gap in the fence, through which the chicken co-operatively placed its wing. Unfortunately, next door’s dog was also on the other side of that fence, and when I came home that night, I was looking at a very sorry chicken. Whilst I was in no doubt that it was in shock, and although the damage was significant (we now had a one-winged chicken), it was pecking and scratching the ground as it always did as though nothing had happened. Torn between doing what I thought would be needed and the remote chance that it might live another day, I resolved to wait until the morning to make the decision. If it survived the night on its own, it would survive into the foreseeable future.

 

Fast forward to 6 months later. Having spent the intervening time scratching, pecking, annoying the Border Collie and avoiding the chicken-lovin’ mutt behind the fence, our disfigured little Light Sussex managed to overcome all odds, deal with the nightmare of the hungry canid nearby; heal its own wounds and get its reproductive functions re-aligned. The result of which, of course, was a smooth, perfect, speckled brown egg, laid in a quiet corner of the chicken run, under the rambling Salvia bush. Then, next day, another, and another, and so on.

I know this is a long preamble to a sustainable food blog post, but I wanted to set it up as best I could. Because on so many levels, this bowl of half a dozen eggs captures so much about why I’m a sustainable foodie.  Here’s some:

  • I know exactly where these eggs came from. The omelette I made from these came not only with whites and yolks, but with a story that I could trace back to a time and a place. OK, it’s not the most pleasant story, but I know it.
  • Despite my best efforts at neglect and avoiding the hard decisions, nature compensated for my inadequacies and gave me a gift that has been perfected over millions of years. I feel humbled, which makes me feel good, because I am reminded of my place in the scheme of things.
  • I feel happy that the kitchen scraps, garden clippings and occasional forays into my rainbow chard patch that I allowed the aforementioned chook to make, came together in a healing process, and culminated in those 6 smooth beauties.
  • All those kitchen scraps and garden clippings cost me nothing, as did the eggs.
  • The squeals of delight and surprise that emanated from my kids were priceless. Again, I felt thankful that this miracle chook was acting as a reminder – to the next generation of eaters – that eggs don’t come from a carton on a shelf, they come from a chook’s bum.
  • Although my backyard is small and my skills are basic, my meagre contributions to my own self-sufficiency remind me that we can work with nature if we are patient and forgiving, and nature will reward us.

There’s really nothing that beats the feeling of knowing exactly where your food comes from, and if there is a sliver of your own efforts mixed in there too, well, that makes it even better. Some of the benefits associated with organic food have been shown to be based on the psychology of the eater – perhaps even more so than any ‘real’ nutritional benefits that may be present. Part of the benefit stems from the eater believing that their food is better for them, which makes it so. Cool huh? (I will dig out the reference to that study and share later, I promise.)  And there’s nothing that could un-convince me that these eggs are the best eggs I’ll eat all year.

Whereupon I shall now proceed to make another gorgeous Spanish tortilla-inspired creation using potatoes, basil, carrots, dried peppers – and 6 eggs – all sourced from my wannabe sustainable backyard. (Yes, topped with some fetta that I didn’t make. You really don’t want me to start on the goat story.)

And I shall thank my beautiful, productive, forgiving, deformed chook with every mouthful.

- Patrick

Disclosure: I’m just doing this because I think it might help. No-one is paying me or giving me anything. I blog for NoshPlanet because it’s my baby. I spell words like colour, flavour, neighbour and archaeological the way I do because of where I grew up. And because that’s how they’re spelt.

 

 

 

Posted in Local, Organic | Leave a comment

Flu Shots for Pumpkins and Searching for Fair Trade Treats

It’s that time of year – when pumpkins get flu shots and children wear costumes in search of Fair Trade treats.  Well, at least at my house, the pumpkins have a flu shot clinic – leave it to a 3- and 5-year-old to tape leaf ‘bandaids’ onto their ‘boo-boos’.

Flu Shot Clinic for Pumpkins at the Henry Household

And do all children go in search of Fair Trade treats?  I’ll admit that it’s more likely to be whatever piece of candy is bigger or different than the last house and that they’ll want to rip into the package before they’ve even left the doorstep as they run full on to the next house.  Ahhh – the perennial sugar rush of childhood.

But now, just a few (!) years past childhood (ha), the responsibility and impact of decisions far outweighs the temporary sugar rush I experienced in my princess costume.  As a parent, I am faced with relentless choices all directly related to the health and well-being of those in my care.  The continual bombardment of messages only confuses the issues at hand and I often feel left wondering who to trust and how to make sense of it all.

The very heart of these discussions, for me, comes down to food.  I have multiple opportunities every day to make decisions that will have impacts far beyond my family.  And as I make these decisions, I now consider:

1.  Trust.  The bottom line is that I have to trust – the brand, the label, the certification.  Whatever the tipping point on the particular item that I am staring at while trying to keep my kids entertained at the market.  But in order to have ‘trust’, I have to know…

2.  Journey.  I want to understand the journey the food has taken to arrive on the shelf or in the basket in front of me.  Hand picked by a local farmer? Flown in from an organic vineyard? Developed in a lab?  This journey is important because of…

3.  Scope.  How much of the journey can I know about this food item? Can I find out where it was originally sourced and who was responsible? Where did it go from there and what regulations or standards were in place?  Scope is only possible with…

4.  Transparency. There must be an attitude of sharing on behalf of the brand, label or certification. If they provide the criteria by which they make decisions, then I feel more comfortable knowing whether or not my decision will align with theirs.

Which leads me full circle back to trust. These four components have evolved for me as crucial considerations in every food decision I make whether it’s standing in a field of strawberries or scanning a restaurant menu.

Not surprising then that my personal beliefs have taken shape in the professional journey that Patrick and I are on with NoshPlanet.  We decided to call our partners in this journey “Trust Partners” because they represent the invaluable expertise and experience in the four key areas I have mentioned above.

This month we celebrate Fair Trade Month and all the fantastic work they do to help us make decisions about food. They are a brand worth trusting, worth seeking out, and worth choosing at a restaurant or cafe.  (Plus, on a personal note, I have to say it was awesome visiting Fair Trade USA Headquarters in Oakland, CA to meet in person). We are thrilled they have joined us on this journey called NoshPlanet.

Visiting Fair Trade USA Headquarters in Oakland, CA

Wishing a Happy Halloween to all of our Noshers and hoping you find some Fair Trade chocolate in your pumpkins tonight!

Julie

**As always, enjoying my journey alongside Patrick into the world of Noshers and NoshSpots. Love sharing my thoughts with you and look forward to hearing what you think!

 

Posted in Fair Trade, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Traveling a thousand miles to eat local.

I travelled to Perth, Western Australia, to drink this locally roasted brewed coffee, made with beans sourced from Central America. Things that make you go “Hmm”.

 

Next week, team NoshPlanet is heading to west-coast USA for a bunch of sustainability meetings, including the much-anticipated Chefs Collaborative Sustainable Food Summit. Chef’s Collaborative is a fantastic group that does great things for sustainable food; this group’s achievements include successfully lobbying to bring about a management plan for swordfish, working with the Pew Health Group to  to urge Capitol Hill legislators to take action on the issue of antibiotics (and superbug risk) in food, and tackling a host of other important food health and sustainability issues. In their words, “As a result of our work, sustainable practices will be second nature for every chef in the United States.” Love it.

Because the summit is happening in Seattle, the gastronomic focus will naturally be on foods sourced and/or produced local to the area.  Iconic Pacific north-west salmon, oysters, goats, beans – and of course, not forgetting the plethora of craft alcohol offerings that flow from every re-purposed warehouse in the region. Yep, it’s gonna be a tough week. We’ll eat local, drink local, talk local, think local.  Because local is where it’s at, right? Hmm. Like all challenges worth pondering, the local food challenge is full of subtleties and complications and they are doing my head in.

Here’s a smattering:

1. Local can be sustainable, sustainable can be local, but being local doesn’t automatically make food sustainable, just as not all sustainable food is local. 

Exhibit A: A local farmer, less than 20km from here, produces lamb, but is a text-book example of worst-practice soil management. That farm is also responsible for direct inputs of agricultural fertiliser to one of the watershed’s major streams, which flows directly into a sensitive coastal embayment, which is suffering big-time from the effects of those fertilisers and the smothering effects of eroded soil being washed down onto seagrass. Probably one of the least sustainable farming operations for miles. But the lamb is locally produced lamb, no doubt about it. Does that make it a good choice?

Yesterday’s gorgeous open sandwich. Organic, fresh and delicious. I have no idea where the ingredients came from. I hear the beetroots grown in Cambodia are sublime.

Exhibit B: The only MSC-certified fish I can buy at in my neighbourhood supermarket is flown in from New Zealand. The fish stock (the fish population, not the soup base!) has been given the green light by the Marine Stewardship Council, arguably one of the world’s most stringent eco-certification processes. Yet there’s a big sustainability difference between purchasing that fish on the dock in Dunedin and freezing, flying, storing and selling it thousands of miles away, isn’t there? There’s another food sustainability principle – food miles – that kicks in somewhere along the line. I just don’t know where it kicks in.

Almost unquestionably sustainable, but from a looong way away.

2. Local doesn’t come with a tape-measure

Following my fish example above, how local does something have to be in order to be local? Is there a distance thing that we all intuit? What’s the maximum distance food can travel before it reaches your plate and still be considered local?  Are local places simply those that you could visit within an hours drive, 3 hours on a bike, or 30minutes on foot? Does ‘local butcher’ equate to ‘local meat’?

3. The benefits of local are also about community

I hear this often, and whilst hanging out at farmers markets does create a nice fuzzy feeling and a sense of a more direct connection with the dirt that my bag of spuds was grown in, the shine disappears a little when I realise that those spuds were actually grown 2 hours drive from here, they’re not certified by any third-party for their sustainability performance, and that farmer Jane sells that same bag of potatoes at 7 different farmers markets within a 5 hour radius of her paddock. How many of the few dollars I give farmer Jane for her spuds actually benefit ‘my’ local community? Isn’t that what local is also about? Am I just being duped by the novelty of buying produce out in the fresh air but in reality I’m still supporting poor production techniques and sending my money out of circulation?

You can see why my head is a mess over local food. I think I’m coming to the conclusion that, for me, sustainable trumps local. But enough of this. I’ve decided to define it for myself, at least until someone tells me a better way. Local food: food that is grown or harvested in places that I can get to, and back home from, in half a day at most. There. It’s not scientific, it isn’t based on anything but my sense of local, which I know is almost certainly different to someone else’s.

But if there’s food that’s sustainable AND locally produced, look out – I’m lining up with my wallet and my mouth both wide open.

And next week in Seattle, I’ll happily accept the definition that anything and everything I get given to eat and drink at the summit will be, by definition, local, because <span style = “oxymoronic, or is it ironic?;”> that’s why team NoshPlanet is traveling thousands of miles to find it. </span>

I’d love to hear your thoughts on local food and how you tackle this.

- Patrick

Disclosure: I’m just doing this because I think it might help. No-one is paying me or giving me anything. I blog for NoshPlanet because it’s my baby. I spell words like ‘realise’ and ‘fertilise’ the way I do because of where I grew up. And because that’s how they’re spelt.

Posted in Local | Leave a comment

Why my tomatoes kept me awake one night

Few things come close to the taste of tomatoes that you’ve picked from your own bushes. Even better if they’re ‘exotic’ heirlooms (and I will declare here that I am a HUGE fan of heirloom veggies) that bring extra colour, interest and flavour to the meal.

But for one night last year, my tomatoes kept me awake wondering. Here’s why.

We live in a smallish town where veggie gardening is still ‘a thing’, though I know it’s nowhere near as prevalent as it was when I was growing up. Some of my early food gardening memories are of my grandfather helping me set out rows of carrots and chives, and I remember my delight watching them grow. I must have been 9 or 10 years old; he must have been 60 or so. For whatever reason, the carrots karked it, but my onion patch earned a permanent place in our family’s food life. For most of my teen years there wasn’t a pizza that wasn’t topped with spring onions, or lamb chops that didn’t end up with a dollop of sweet caramelised onions plonked on top. I was the family onion man, and proud of it. And although I didn’t know it, I was part of what the interwebs are now full of wistful yearning for – a supply chain of local, accessible, organic produce.

- Here it is: local, organic … but growing in who-knows-what?

Fast forward to 2011, in the midst of one of the worst droughts on record, when I decided that I could do more than just collect a few thousand litres of rainwater, mulch with rocks and pea-straw and only do my watering in late evening. I decided that a super-deep dig was in order, so I could incorporate a ton of beautiful compost and other water-holding organic matter into the soil under next season’s tomato patch. Anything to give my veggies that bit of extra resilience in the driest period our region had experienced since records started being kept, and anything to stop my coriander and basil bolting to seed, seemingly overnight. (So annoying.)

So I dug, filled with purpose, and was rewarded with the sweet smell of earth meeting air. And for the most part, the soil was great – last year’s reworking and that handful of worms had done their job and things were going as planned. But then at about 3 feet down, the veggie garden dig developed a decidedly archaeological twist. A bed spring? A belt buckle? An old perfume bottle? The ground beneath my prize veggie garden was giving up its past, and the collection was amazing.